Growing up in a small Lutheran church (Missouri Synod) in suburban Indianapolis, I learned much about the Christian faith and how to put it into practice in my daily life. As a youngster, I was active in Bible school, youth choir and all aspects of the church. I even gave my first sermon as a high school youth at a special Sunday morning youth service. At the time, I didn’t know that was pretty out of the ordinary for a female.
I never really thought much in my little church about how odd it was that only the boys got to light the candles. In college, I began to sense a call to ordained ministry, and I saw the larger picture.
At Butler University, where I studied sociology and world religions, I became active in Lutheran Campus Ministry and then realized that I was headed down an uncharted path in my own denomination. Women who want to enter seminary in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod cannot enter the ordination track and can only seek a vocation as a deaconess. In no way to minimize that calling, I knew that I was being called to something different.
I didn’t yet know what that “something different” meant. Luckily I had wonderful mentors along the way who encouraged me to follow my dream and seek affiliation with another Lutheran body that had been ordaining women for several years at that time.
As an honors project as a senior at Butler, I researched local women who served as priests, rabbis and ordained spiritual leaders in their denominations. For the first time, I could a get a glimpse of the joys and struggles that would await me. It was then that I met a woman who served as a chaplain in a large metropolitan hospital.
My seminary training took me to Staten Island, New York. In addition to learning about congregational life, I spent half of my time serving as a chaplain in a long term care facility with various levels of care. Over a period of years of my chaplaincy training, I learned the art of listening and being fully present when someone is hurting.
On July 10, 1988, I was ordained as a pastor at St. Petri Lutheran in South Toledo, where I served for three years as youth pastor. Two churches, five years as a Lutheran campus pastor at University of Toledo and several classes spent in Clinical Pastoral Education, I found my way to my home at ProMedica Toledo Hospital in 2000.
I loved serving churches, preaching and leading worship and all the things that go into church life, but I knew that I wanted to be with people in crisis who were searching and wondering where God is in the midst of the pain and struggles of life. The thing that gets me excited about my work as a chaplain is having the privilege of walking alongside another, listening to their joys and struggles, being a sounding board, and offering words of hope and encouragement along the way.
Wherever you are in your health, your faith or your journey, I want to help you heal, inside and out.
Chaplain Julie Beitelschees has worked at ProMedica for 15 years. She is a Lutheran pastor and board-certified chaplain through the Association of Professional Chaplains. Married for 25 years, she and her husband Ted enjoy boating and travelling.